Friday, July 24, 2009

Do Things “Work Out” in the End?

A friend’s life recently turned the corner after a period of great difficulty. As she caught me up on her story and its (relatively) happy conclusion she smiled softly and said “I guess things have a way of working out in the end.”

It’s the kind of thing we say without thinking too deeply about what we are saying. Is it true? Do things in fact “work out” in the end? An honest answer would be “sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.” Some things get broken and cannot be mended. Some losses are so painful that the ache never completely goes away. Sometimes the bad guys win. And some people, no better or worse than anyone else, suffer more than their fair share of things that do not work out in the end.

I once heard a professor argue that a core conviction behind all faiths is that there is a power at work in the universe that wills for all life to flourish. That is very broad, but I think it is fair. Spiritually mature people know that there is no special divine protection afforded to the righteous and that life is a risky and uncertain business. Yet they choose to live in hope rather than in despair because they believe that the universe is kindly disposed towards us.

If we believe this, it means that we know that even though things will not always work out for us, more often than not they will. It means that most of the frightening possibilities we worry about will never happen. And it means that we believe that in the long-term—in God’s time, not ours—life and love will prevail.

Our little cabin in the U.P. is near the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a beautiful place. One of its many attractions is Chapel Rock (it is an eight-mile hike to get there and back, but well worth it). Even though it is a barren rock, there is a huge tree on top of it. One root of the tree reaches across six feet of open air to lodge itself in the soil of a nearby hillside, providing the only source of moisture and nutrition for the tree. Each time I visit, I stare at that tree and its adventuresome root in awe, a reminder that life somehow finds a way to endure in even the most difficult circumstances.

Our own lives sometimes resemble that tree – we find ourselves in a barren place, with no source of strength or support to keep us going. Then we manage to grow a new root or someone tosses us a lifeline, and we somehow endure, even flourish. Life wins, hope prevails. We lose a round here or there, we suffer setbacks, we grieve losses. But looking at the larger picture, I agree with my friend: Things have a way of working out in the end.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have a picture of that tree, and get the same feeling when I look at said picture. Remarkable!